I’ve worked in marketing for nearly two decades now, across a number of different businesses. I worked in a variety of industries – media, finance and utilities and adapted to their practices and cultures. I’ve planned and executed campaigns aimed at consumer and business, using TV to social media and everything in between.
While each job I’ve had has been very different, with its own set of challenges, budgets and in some cases even different languages to grapple with, a few experiences have been consistent across every organisation. A large percentage of colleagues in different departments, and some members of the board, have viewed marketing as an add on, a nice to have, a function that makes things look pretty, but not a “serious” business department such as finance or sales. On many occasions, when budgets have been squeezed during difficult times, it is marketing who has had their budget cut first. It has been seen as a function that is a drain on resources, not a generator of wealth, not something to be treasured or protected. In my experience, marketing too often does not have a voice when it comes to core business decision making and this invariably has a detrimental effect on overall business performance.
Another occurrence I’ve come across is that marketing is not seen as a discipline that requires as much skill or expertise as other functions in the business. I’ve worked with numerous people, across a variety of departments who feel they “can do marketing.” They believe that it’s easy, that anyone can do it . It’s just about saying how brilliant a product or service is and making it look pretty, then it will virtually sell itself. In some instances, an approach this blunt and simple can work for a limited time at least, but in more complex, competitive markets where a need for the product or service must be established, it will fall flat on its face. Common sense is something every marketer needs, but just like other disciplines, they also need to spend timing learning and honing their skills to take their work to the next level.
If used in a proactive way, creative marketing can be highly effective in building up a relationship with potential customers. A level of trust can be established through providing materials that are useful and insightful and deliberately non-salesy, which help solve problems. Taking a potential customer on a journey where they decide they are interested in your products or services is much more effective when it comes to closing the deal than jumping in cold and pushing your products on to them. Integrating your approach, that aligns all your activities, so they work together will create a strong brand presence.
I would also say that marketing hasn't been entirely blameless. In the past, when most of the activity was offline, it often was slow to tangibly prove its worth and effectively counter the argument that it was light and fluffy. However, the digital revolution has rendered almost everything measurable, so there are no more excuses and marketing, if anything, has by default improved and will continue improving as data can be used an a very effective way to sharpen and hone campaigns. It is also important to take note of the measures that are most meaningful. For example, click through rates for a campaign will tell you part of the story, but comparing them to industry benchmarks will fill in more details, informing you where you stand in comparison to your competitors.
While I don’t believe you need to spend decades learning complicated marketing theories, I do believe that it is a craft that needs to studied, understood and appreciated. I feel it is a role that requires empathy and understanding of human nature. To be a good marketer you need to be able to put yourself in the position of those you are trying to reach and understand what their issues and problems are. For marketing to work at its best, it needs to be integrated with the rest of the business, have input from other departments and be aligned with the overall company objectives. It needs to take account of the full landscape of the business and the environment it’s operating in and become a natural part of how the organisation functions. Far from being an add-on, marketing becomes a core function that is relevant to all parts of your business.
It is not about creating a beautiful video, crafting a newsletter or building a state-of-the-art website just because that’s what you think marketing is or it’s what you’ve seen other people do. It’s about asking yourself what do you want to achieve, who are you trying to reach and how am I going to reach them. Once you have the answers to these questions, then it’s time to decide what you should produce to reach and engage your chosen audience.
Marketing is also not about throwing money at the problem. Don’t get me wrong, having a multi-million pound budget is an advantage and you can create amazing multi-media campaigns. But often when you have large amounts of cash at your disposal it’s easy to get complacent and not spend as wisely as you might otherwise. When money is tight, it forces you to think more creatively and really look at the assets that your business has. I see marketing as presenting your business and the products or services it offers in the best light possible. Just getting the basics right can make a huge difference.
What do I mean by basics? Well, here are just a few examples:
• Does your literature explain clearly and simply what you do?
• Is your website easy to understand and navigate?
• How do you stand out from the competition? What is different about your business? What is different about your customers?
• Are you using free communication channels, like social media as well as you could?
• Does your LinkedIn profile present you and your business in the best light?
• If your customers think you do a great job, are you telling other people about it?
• Are you building partnerships with non-competing business who are looking to reach the same audience as you?
None of these things cost a fortune. They require just a bit of time, focus and understanding of how to get the best out of the materials, resources and budget available. Often this is easier for someone objective from outside the company, who can stand apart from history or internal politics. This is where we can help. If you’ve liked what you’ve read and think we can help you too, please get in touch.